It’s a funny thing about our lives, we all enjoy our turns living at (just about) every age. And whatever age we happen to be, we tend to categorize into brackets others that are very different from our own ages. People are old, middle age, young, children. When we were children, we didn’t think of other children as children. And when we were in our 20’s, we just kew that we were vital and had a lot to learn and do. Most other people were either old or kids.
A bunch of years ago, my dad told me that when he was in his early 30’s, he thought getting to be 50 was old. Now he’s 83 and still doing well. And dear (not) old mom, turning 80 soon. It’s wasn’t so long ago that they were 24 and 20 years old respectively and birthed me. Blink. Now they are 80. Blink, and I’ll be there soon (if I’m not shown a short cut).
When I turned 50 several years ago, I stared receiving invitations from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). It was like receiving a free insult by mail. I couldn’t throw that correspondence away quick enough. Besides not wanting to associate myself with other “retired persons,” (50 is way too young for that), when the organization started lobbying against the then P Bush’s proposal that would have allowed each of us to manage 10% of our retirement benefit, I knew then that I’d never join that crazy organization no matter how many discounts they offered. They were lobbying against our ability to manage part of our own money? Were they just nuts? Where their minds corrupted by retirement? To this day they keep sending me cards and invitations which go immediately to the shredder.
Perhaps some day I’ll retire, but that will be when there is nothing left. The word “retire” implies that you’ve retreated or quit, when all that we are doing is evolving. I shouldn’t get hung up, after all, it’s just a word to describe how one transitions from a life of ‘earning resulting from effort’ to a life of not having to earn from effort.
In September, the day after my stomach hernia operation, I traveled to have lunch with about a dozen guys from high school. Some seemed to be a little older, some younger, but all young in spirit. I wouldn’t have wanted to guess their individual ages (even though we were all the same age). A couple were retired. Most were not. It was great seeing most of them after 40 years — and they all looked good.
When I was 40, I remember taking a holiday weekend off while I was living in Lima, Peru. I traveled north to Iquitos, which was in the Amazon area. One day I rented a motorbike and road out of Iquitos to do some exploring. I happened to venture upon a small resort in the middle of nowhere. It was hot, so I stopped for an hour and swam in their pool. While I was relaxing in a poolside lounge chair having a drink, I heard these three guys talking english in the pool. They were about 20 years old (from looking at them). Two guys were telling the other a story about what happened to them the night before and they kept referring to this “old f**k.” Finally the guy listening asked how old the “old f**k” was, to which the response was, “he must have been 39 or 40.” To a couple of guys barely out of their teenage years, those reaching 40 years of age were old (f**ks).
Who doesn’t want to stay younger? There are industries built around people willing to spend lots of money to appear younger. And we must pretend it’s cute when we run into people who lie about their age, saying they are ’29 or 39′ when they are significantly older. If one were to lie about their age, it would make sense to lie on the older side, not the younger side — that way you’d have a chance of looking good for your lied about age.
Well, I didn’t need to lie the other day. In fact, I didn’t need to say anything. A client/partner asked if I could messenger a sample to him downtown. As my business is fledgling, I am my own messenger. I told him I’d have it there in the evening. So after office hours, I hopped on my utility bike, bundled up in coat, hat, gloves and headed down to Tribeca to make the delivery. On the way home, I thought I’d stop at this natural, organic store and pick up a desert.
This natural store has some wonderful dishes and even more wonderful desserts. Everything is organic, vegan, and supposedly healthy. It’s mostly the same crap, but it’s nice to be able to fool ourselves that we can eat healthy chocolate cake.
After ordering two different great looking cake slices to go, I take them to the checkout. As in most small New York stores, there are at least six registers, where in other cities there would be one, or two at most. The cashier I ended up with is a young middle eastern looking girl. She scans my items and then shouts out “I need a discount override please.” I thought she was trying to help her co-worker cashier who seemed to be stuck. A little while later, the manager came over to our register and turned a key and punched some buttons. Finally, the cashier gave me the price which was less then the total of the items. The discount was for me.
Fantastic, I’m thinking. Love those discounts. I’m thinking that I’ve got to shop at this time more often as they are probably trying to get rid of stuff before they close. So, I ask, “what time do the discounts start on the baked goods?” She looked at me inquisitively and said, “we don’t have discounts for that.” Baffled, I then ask, “so what is the discount for?” She says, “senior discount.” Now I’m speechless and thinking, ‘wow, discounts for people over 50.’ I don’t want to ask more, but my curiosity beats me. “How old must you be for a senior discount?,” I say. She says, “65.”
If I felt good the week before because someone asks me how I stay in such good shape, I’ve been brought down to below ground level this week. ‘I wonder if it’s because I’m all bundled up, with wool hat and big coat (overdressed for walking, but I was on the bike). Or it must be because she is of foreign origin and anyone who looks over 40 is senior.‘ I was confused. And I wanted to laugh. But I just took my change, smiled and said thank you. How could that nice girl have just said to me, “you look like a really old f**k so I’m going to give you a discount.”?
I’ve always thought of myself as young. And not that I’ve got to face any music as they say, but reality is staring at me and maybe I’d rather not see. But no, damn it, I’m not a senior, yet. I’m still a vital 58 year old. Not even half done yet. (another reality check needed?).
After we pass a certain break point, which may be the early 20’s, our desire to appear younger is due to a desirability quotient. Whether it’s socially, to the other sex, for our work, we have a certain need to be desired. And in our minds appearing younger is better, more desirable. Which is why, when someone asks you to guess their age, it’s better to subtract 10 years to be safe. Compliment rather than offend.
The middle eastern girl didn’t care though. She didn’t pass any etiquette courses and just said it like it was. I didn’t take it personally. But when I got home that night after my messenger ride, I did wash my face thoroughly and apply some anti-aging cream. I’d better get into that habit. Getting my chin and neck messed with radiation and knives didn’t help much with the aging process. If they could have taken out some of the extra facial skin it would have been a bonus. But I’ll just be humored by the senior moment I had the other day. Anyhow, I’ll be there soon enough.